Friday, June 22, 2012

Rednecks at the beach!

My Daughter-in-law, granddaughter, daughter, and youngest son.

You know, I'm really not much of an out doorsy kind of person. As a teenager, I grew up out in the sticks of the Mojave desert and spent most of my time out hiking, climbing the mountains, and bike riding, but somewhere along the way things changed. I think that in some ways it was the US Army that killed any desire I ever had for spending time outdoors, because after you are forced to live out in the woods for weeks at a time, freezing your butt off in the snow and rain with little to no sleep, suddenly spending time outside just doesn't sound like all that much fun anymore. Therefore it was with mixed feelings that I found myself headed for the beach in Rockport Texas for the weekend with my wife, children, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter. I have to admit though that I really enjoyed myself and I'm pretty sure the rest of my family had a great time too, at least judging by my daughters repeated comment "this is the most fun I've ever had!"
The bad news is that we all got the snot sun burned outta us, but I sorta figure that is a part of the beach experience.

Vincent at beach
My Youngest son

Audrey at beach
My daughter
Dawn at beach
My old bat . . .err . . I mean my lovely wife.  :)

When Monday rolled around I found myself in the Austin airport headed for Columbia SC. Between the awful heat, my sun burnt face, and just the simple fact that I was tired as hell, there was no way I was gonna fly pretty, and so it was as a tired old dude that I made my way through the airport. For this reason, I found it kind of surprising when both, the lady at the US Airways counter and one of the TSA inspectors, recognized and spoke to me.
"Let me guess - You're going to WA?" said the young lady behind the US Airways counter when I approached her.
"Close, but no cigar!" I replied with a laugh.
"I just thought that since you had flown there twice recently, you might be headed that way again."
"Wow, you must have one hell of a memory considering how many people that you must deal with every day!"
"Well, just sometimes!" she answered with a funny little laugh. When I got to thinking about it, I realized two things:
1 - I had made those trips as Kim and so like her counterparts at the Delta airlines counter, this young lady now apparently recognized me in both male and female modes.
2 - Her odd laugh probably added some unspoken words to her reply, something along the lines of "Yeah, my memory rocks when it comes to recognizing someone that flys cross dressed a lot!"

As I was handing her my ID, it struck me that she wasn't entirely wrong about where I was going either.
"You know it just occurred to me that you were partially right about my destination. This is a two part trip! Guess where I am going from Columbia on Wednesday?!"
"DC?" she asked with a grin.
"Baltimore Washington International as a matter of fact! Say, you ARE good!" I told her with a laugh.

A few minutes later while making my way through the TSA check point, there were two inspectors at the desk where they check your ID. The one that checked my ID was a young woman with really pretty eyes, and the other was a guy standing close behind her. I don't know for sure, but they gave me the impression that he was training her.
"Please state your full name for me?" the young lady asked.
"Matthew Huddle" I replied. I noticed that while she and I were talking, the man was looking at me, and he spoke as I looked directly at him.
"You fly a LOT don't you?!" he asked with a grin.
"I do indeed! What can I say, it pays the bills!”

When I was setting this trip up, it kept nagging me that there was something about Columbia SC that I should remember and eventually it came to me! I had a cousin that lived there! When I had last seen him, he would have been a very young child, and I was a teenager, so neither of us actually recalled meeting before. For all intents and purposes, all that we knew of each other was our respective Facebook accounts.
We are related through my fathers side of the family, and if you have been reading my blog for any time, you might know that my mother and father separated when I was very young, and so I knew virtually no one from my fathers side. Anyway, a few years ago I connected with one of my aunts on that side of the family and Richard is her son. It didn't take long looking through his Facebook to discover that he was openly gay, and happily married to another man. The more I read, the more I got the impression that he seemed to be a really nice person, and before I knew it I was sharing my story with him. Funny thing is, I'm still not sure WHY I told him, as it is not something that I typically rush to share with people that I don't know well. I'm pleased that I did though, because in the year or two since then, I've grown kind of fond of the man. It goes without saying that when I found out I was to be working in his home town, I sent him a message and invited him and his husband to dinner.

Matt and Richard
My Cousin Richard and I

I was delighted to find that Richard was exactly who his Facebook page had led me to believe he was - an honestly nice and friendly person. His husband either couldn't join us or decided not to. I suspect it might have been a little bit of both, because let's face it, it takes quite a bit of courage to hang out in public with a cross dresser, and despite my telling them that I wouldn't be coming that way, I'll bet he still worried about it.
Well, we spoke about just about everything you can imagine - our family history, his being gay and how his family had reacted, my being TG and how MY family had reacted, etc, etc.
Oddly enough I found myself often at a loss for the right words while speaking with him and I even found myself feeling a bit like I had dropped the ball somewhere. Here he had come out early in life to a conservative family, had dealt with the consequences, and was now proudly living his life in freedom and setting an example for all who met and knew him. On the other hand, here I am, still sneaking out of my own home so early that it is still dark outside, and living in abject terror that my company will find out and fire me. I honestly felt just a bit ashamed of myself.

I think that when I grow up, I wanna be just like my cousin Richard. .  .

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Good Luck Charlie

So this started off as yet another blog that was almost completely lacking in anything interesting to talk about. That seems to happen more and more lately and I’m starting to wonder if it is because the world is getting used to seeing people like me out and about or if it is just that my own excitement level at the little things has just dropped over the last few years? Maybe things that I once thought were interesting and neat have now become old hat? Honestly, I don’t know and can’t think of any reason to spend a lot of time dwelling on the question. Anyway, it wound up getting a little more interesting on the last day – at least if you are a teenager . . .

Normally I get a bit of warning before heading out on a complex or long term service call, but not this time. One Friday afternoon I got a call from my manager telling me that he needed me in Albany New York the following Monday night. No worries, that’s what I get paid for though, so over the weekend I spent the time to set up flights and hotels and the like, and Monday morning my happy ass was on an airplane bound for the North Eastern United States.

The dress that I wore on the way to Albany was another thrift store treasure. It had been part of a two piece suit and had a price tag on each piece of about $10. I thought that the coat that went with it was a bit over the top, with a huge fake diamond clasp on the front of it, but for $10 I was willing to give it a whirl. When I went to pay for it though, the young lady behind the counter rang it up at over $20 and so I stopped her.
“Hey now! The price tag says $10 but you just rang it up for twice that. What’s the deal with that?” I asked her with a grin and a wink.
“Nope, it is $10 for each piece.” She replied.
“You’re kidding? It’s a two piece suit, and y’all are pricing each piece of it?” I asked her, trying to clarify it, because it just didn’t make sense to me.
“You got it!” She replied with a laugh.
“Well, I’ll tell ya what then! I think that the coat sucks anyway and I was just gonna throw it away. Since you priced them individually does that mean that I can just buy the dress and leave the coat?” I asked.
“You can!” she answered.
“Well cool then. You keep the coat and I’ll take the dress!”
And there ya have it – Kimberly has a pretty green dress . . .
Albany NY 2012 05 16 003

I don’t imagine y’all want to hear all of my work related problems and activities, but let’s suffice it to say that my one and a half week trip ended up being a three week trip with my making multiple trips between Albany and Fishkill New York. I had originally intended to meet with Lisa Gayle Harris, but the way my job was yanking me back and forth between the two cities and customers, combined with late nights I had to spend helping customers by phone, it just didn’t pan out.

One night on the way back to my hotel I stopped and hit up a Marshalls department store in boy mode and found a pair of shoes that I really liked. Even better, they looked to be perfect for a dress that I had brought with me. The problem is that I have learned over the years that women’s shoe sizes, just like sizes on just about all women’s attire, are highly unreliable. Some shoes that fit me perfectly are size 9, some are 10, and some (ugghh) are size 11. Suffice it to say that I have learned not to buy shoes without trying them on first, and that of course presents a bit of a challenge when buying women’s shoes while dressed as a man. With my heart in my throat, I grabbed two pair of the same shoes – one in size 9.5 and one in size 10, and headed to the dressing room with both pairs. The young lady behind the counter had a bit of a puzzled look on her face as a 46 year old man placed two pair of women’s shoes in front of her.

“OK, I’m pretty bold for a cross dresser, but I’m not bold enough to sit out there in front of all of your other customers and try on heels. Do you mind if I take these into the dressing room and try them on?” I asked her with a sheepish grin.
“I don’t mind at all! Go right ahead!” she told me with a grin.
“Thanks!” I told her and happily headed on back with the boxes cradled in my arms.
Like a lot of us, I am cursed with one foot that that is smaller than the other, and so the ideal shoe sizes for me would usually be a 9.5 on my right, and a 10 on my left, and I found these shoes to be no exception. The size 10’s fit well enough, and so I put them back in their boxes and headed back out to the counter with them where I struck up another conversation with the lady manning the door there.
“So? Did you choose one?” she asked.
“Sure! I’ll take the size 10’s please!” and then I proceeded to tell her laughingly that the ideal pair for me would be one of each size. She laughed, because it turns out that she has the very same problem.
After she was done ringing up my shoes, I took out my phone and showed her one of my favorite ‘Kimberly’ photos.
“Just in case you were gonna have nightmares tonight about the ugly old crossdresser, this is what I look like.” I told her with a grin. She was gratifyingly surprised.
“No way?!” She said looking at it. “Do you do your own makeup?”
“I do! My wife refuses to travel with me just to do my makeup.” I told her with a wink, and then gave her my heartfelt thanks.
Yeah, when I got back to the hotel and took the shoes out, I discovered that she had very kindly given me one of each size! What a sweetheart!

That Thursday I was supposed to meet up with Lisa Gayle Harris from the vanity club, but instead wound up stuck in my room trying to help two customers by phone and email. As seems to be more and more common these days, they have older equipment and I am the only remaining field service engineer in the company with training and experience with it, and so the headache came to me. Then, in a perfect storm, I got a call from my manager telling me that tomorrow morning I had to head for Fishkill New York because a huge customer of ours there had the same type of equipment and they needed my help. So much for a free weekend to hang out in Albany! Instead of laying around all day and going out in the evenings over the weekend, I found myself driving to Fishkill where I spent the weekend helping one of my colleagues who was already there and struggling with the system.
Monday morning I drove back to Albany to take care of the customer that I had originally been staying the weekend to take care of. That Thursday night, the night before I was supposed to head home, my manager called me again to tell me that he really needed me to go back to Fishkill again, because my colleague was still struggling there and needed help. He offered to fly me home and then back the next week so that I could get some time with my family since I had already been gone two weeks, but I looked into it and found that it would cost well over a thousand dollars in flights, AND I would spend a huge part of my weekend stuck in airports and on airplanes, and so I just stayed another week and weekend in New York instead. At least I wound up with all day Friday free just to make the two hour drive, and so I chose to go ahead and road trip “pretty” to my next hotel.

Albany NY 2012 05 16 015 
The only thing of any interest that happened on the drive was the reaction that I got from a woman in the toll booth when I stopped to pay her.
“Honey, you look so cute!” she told me with a grin while handing me my change and my receipt.
“Well thank you! That’s kind of what I was aiming for, but I wasn’t convinced that I got it right!” I replied with a laugh. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll take a grin and a compliment any day, but this sort of comment is kind of a double edged sword. Yes, it’s a compliment, but it also makes it entirely clear that I am not passing as a woman.

Albany NY 2012 05 16 022

Later that weekend I had an afternoon free, and since my colleague headed back to his own home in New Hampshire for the night, that left me free to get out and about for the afternoon. Fishkill is not exactly the height of social activity and so I decided to have a bit of a movie marathon. When I walked up to the counter to buy my tickets, I couldn’t help but notice that the young woman there was very pretty, and with long blond hair.
“Hi there!” I told her with a smile. “I’ll take a ticket for ‘Mirror Mirror’ please, and also one for the four PM showing of ‘John Carter’.”
“Sure!” she told me with a great smile, and then as she handed me my tickets. “That is a really pretty top!”
“Well thank you! I just got it and wasn’t really sure if it looked right on me or not.”

‘Mirror mirror’ was already in progress when I entered, and I was a little concerned when I found the theater was full of young children. I suppose I should have been expecting that, but since the lobby area of the theater had appeared to be almost empty, I had hoped there weren’t gonna be a lot of people. The children don’t bother me at all, don’t get me wrong, I just worry about the possibility of some over protective parent getting upset about the ‘dude in a dress’. The movie was delightful by the way, and the women’s costumes were absolutely to die for!
‘John Carter” was really more my speed though, and I really enjoyed that one. The woman that plays the lead female role in the movie is an absolute stunner, and given the costumes that they had her in, she was hands down one of the hottest women I’ve ever seen in a movie.

The rest of my time was dedicated entirely to my job, and quite honestly it was a rough few weeks. One night after we left the customers factory, my colleague and I both stopped for dinner and a beer at a little pub called “Handshakes”. It was really nothing to write home about, but we were too tired to look for anyplace else. About mid-way through our beers a drop dead gorgeous young woman came in and sat at the bar next to us along with her boyfriend. I hate to admit it, but I was almost obsessed with the woman, because she was pretty much everything that I wish I could be. She was in her early twenties, a flawless figure, a huge head of dark hair, and wearing a short little black dress with a wide belt. I had to actually devote effort to not sneaking peaks at the young woman. Things can get a little confusing for someone like me, because sometimes I am torn between the normal male thoughts (“Damn but she is hot!”) and those of envy (“Damn I wish I was her!”). Such is my strange life . . .

Albany NY 2012 05 16 025

So at long last, three weeks later it is time to head for home! I wore my new dress and the shoes that I had just bought at Marshals, and headed out for the two hour drive to the Albany airport. Once again I had to pass through the toll booths, but this time I received an entirely different reaction as the man inside the booth literally just stared at me for a solid 5 or 10 seconds when I handed him my ticket. At long last, he snapped out of his stupor and spoke up.
“That will be $4.25.” he said, paused, and then continued. “Just because. . .
Huh? What the hell was that supposed to mean?! “Just because??!!”  Was he implying that it might have been less, but he as charging me $4.25 “just because” he didn’t like me?!  I dunno . . .
“ ‘Just because’ huh? Well then I guess I’ll pay $4.25 . . .  just because. . . ”

In order to save my company a buck, I had set up this flight with two connecting flights, so I had to fly from Albany to Philadelphia, and then from there on to Charlotte, and then at last on to Austin. As I boarded the flight from Philadelphia to Charlotte, the flight attendant took one look at me as I entered.
“That’s a really pretty summer dress!” she said with a friendly smile.
“Thank you so much.” I replied as I made my way to my seat, thinking that once again I clearly wasn’t passing. She surprised me though, because she went on to compliment almost every woman that came on board. At least she wasn’t singling out the cross dresser. 

As usual in first class, the flight attendant made the rounds asking everyone what they would like to drink, and I told her that I would like a screw driver.
“Every flight has to have a lush on it, and I’m gonna be it on this flight!” I added with a wink.
“A lush? Now there is an interesting word.” She replied with a grin. Shortly she had provided everyone with a drink and then carried a basket of chips and snacks around and offered those to each of us. I grabbed a bag of chips and laughed.
“So this is lunch then?!” I asked.
“Sure it is!” then she paused. “So we are using all of the “L” words today? Lush and Lunch?”
“I suppose we are.” I answered her. I really have no idea what her fascination with “L” words was. Maybe she was just nervous and so sort of babbled? I dunno . . .

When the flight landed in Philly, I had a hard time trying to figure out where the heck I was supposed to go. Signs in one direction said “B1 to B8 this way” and in the other direction a sign said something along the lines of “B10 to B20 that way”. The problem of course was that I needed to find gate B9 and it didn’t appear to be anywhere near me. There were literally signs telling me how to find every gate except for the one that I needed. My confusion must have been obvious . . .
“Ma’am, you look confused. What gate are you looking for?” said a voice from behind me.
I turned to find an airport employee looking in my direction.
“Well, I see signs for every gate except B9!” I laughed.
“No problem! Go right around this corner and it’s on your right.”
When I got to the gate area, it struck me that one of my TG friends, Sophie, lived in Philly and it was a shame there was really no realistic way to see her while I was there. Still, I took the chance to make her laugh and sent her a text message something like: ‘I’m in the Philly airport. If you get here in the next 20 minutes we can wave at each other past the TSA inspectors!”  Needless to say, she declined.
As I was making myself comfortable in the gate area, I couldn’t help but notice two young ladies enter the area. They looked to be in their late teens, probably close to twenty years old. One of the girls had dark hair and was wearing nothing of interest. The girl with her though was a little blond thing, and wearing an absolutely adorable little sun dress. She looked kind of familiar, but I couldn’t place her. Let’s face it, I don’t know a single girl that age, and so I let it go. When it came time to board the plane, I was standing next to these two near the door while we waited for the boarding to start, and the cute blond dropped her water bottle three times. On the third time, I picked it up for her.
“I think your water bottle doesn’t want to go with you.” I joked with her.
“I know!” she replied with a laugh and then thanked me as she took the bottle back. It kept nagging at me that she looked familiar. . .
When they called for first class to board, I was surprised to see the two young ladies step forward, because let’s face it, very few ‘children’ that age are found in first class. It turned out that they sat directly across the aisle from me and I was mildly surprised when a woman on her way past stopped to talk to the blond girl.
“My daughter loves your show. Would you mind signing an autograph for me?”
NOW I knew where I had seen the girl before! She was Bridget Mendler who plays “Teddy” in “Good luck Charlie”!